ABSTRACT

Telling someone something involves a kind of dependence on them. Specifically, it involves a dependence on their capacity for recognition. This dependence is perhaps most apparent when that recognition is not forthcoming: when we are insulted at not being believed. A concern for the connections between speech, recognition, and dependence on others (made apparent in cases of being insulted) in fact has a deep philosophical history. And among the central figures in that history are two philosophers closely associated with the idea that among our distinguishing traits as social creatures is that we are subject to a desire for recognition from others: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who calls this desire amour-propre; and Adam Smith, whose Theory of Moral Sentiments is principally concerned with our desire for the sympathy of others, and more specifically what he calls the ‘approbation’ of others. Consequently, I am here interested in presenting what are, to my mind, under-explored moments in these philosophers’ writings in which they discuss speech, and particularly testimony, as manifestations of this desire for others’ recognition. 1 As we will see, reading Rousseau and Smith together on these topics can not only help to illuminate what is distinctive about the insult in not being believed, and how that insult is revelatory of the nature of illocutionary acts such as telling; it can also help to locate what sort of role in our vocabulary of normative and social criticism recent talk of ‘testimonial injustice’ should play. 2